Alex Seitz-Wald has a lengthy article in the current issue of National Journal Magazine all about the role that anti-gay American Religious Right activists have played in influencing and promoting anti-gay laws in various nations around the world, especially in places like Africa:
For years, evangelical missionaries have been deeply invested in Uganda—even more so since President Yoweri Museveni declared the country to be in the service of God and the first lady started worshiping at the evangelical church run by Robert Kayanja, who compares homosexuality to murder. “Whatever you see here is the fruit of American labor,” Kayanja tells Roger Ross Williams in the filmmaker’s new documentary, God Loves Uganda, as they sit in a well-appointed church built with American money. (Kayanja is one of the richest men in Uganda.)
Kapya Kaoma is an Anglican priest from Zambia, and when he started attending evangelical conferences and visiting Christian bookstores across Africa as part of his Ph.D. dissertation research, he found something surprising. “Their language sounded more like they were American, not like African Christianity,” Kaoma says. “You go to Zambia, you go to Zimbabwe, you go to Uganda, Nigeria.… Wherever you go, where conservatives are winning, they’re using the same talking points that are used in America.”
David Bahati, the parliamentarian who authored Uganda’s infamous anti-homosexuality law, told The New York Times he got the idea for the bill from conversations with members of the Fellowship—a powerful Arlington, Va.-based group that puts on the National Prayer Breakfast and owns the C Street house where several members of Congress live (the organization has since distanced itself from Bahati).
[Scott] Lively has been deeply involved in Uganda as well, and an LGBT-rights group there is suing him under the U.S. Alien Tort Statute, which allows foreign victims of human-rights abuses to seek compensation in U.S. courts. During the debate over the bill, a Ugandan tabloid outed 100 gay Ugandans, with a banner that read “HANG THEM.” A few weeks after David Kato, known as “Uganda’s first openly gay man,” won a defamation lawsuit against the paper, he was killed in his home. Kayanja’s rival, pastor Martin Ssempa, once gave the editor of a local magazine a copy of Lively’s book about gay Nazis, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks.
That seems to be in contradiction to Marvin Olasky’s assessment, as he writes in World Magazine that he does not support the Uganda law but does understand the inspiration behind it, saying that the solution is more access to Western Christian conservatives who can set them straight:
Chris Howles, a missionary in Uganda who in his blog, Namugongo Life, called the national opposition to homosexuality historical rather than religious. Howles wrote online (“Homophobia in Uganda: Is Christianity the problem or the solution?”), “The vast majority of Christians in this country have never met or spoken with a Western missionary. Nor have their leaders. Many of these attitudes about homosexuality come direct from traditional Ugandan culture.”
Howles has a better idea: Promote Christianity, not tradition. He argues that if Ugandans temper their desire to put homosexuals in prison, “it will most likely be because of Christianity, as churches preach a message of godly love and kindness towards active homosexuals.” Homosexuality is wrong and laws can be useful educators, but our hope is in “the gospel that shows us that all people are created in God’s image … the gospel that welcomes all people to confess that Jesus is Lord and unite together in a broken but re-built community of Christ,” as Ephesians 2:17-22 explains.
Anti-Christians shudder at that notion and desperately need to pretend that Ugandans would be positive about homosexuality if not brainwashed by missionaries—because if that’s not true, two liberal axioms crumble. One is that Africans are natural allies of the left in a war against “religious reactionaries.” The other is that “multiculturalism” is an ideological ally in the war against Christ. When Africans line up with Christian conservatives, the religious left can choose to change its thinking or fall into conspiracy theorizing. The latter is popular, even though the idea that African Christians are puppets demeans them as much as past racists ever did.
Seeing as American conservative Christian Religious Right activists have been loudly voicing support for these very sorts of laws and calling for the criminalization of homosexuality here, we’re not quite sure how giving anti-gay activists around the world more access to these sorts of voices is supposed to help “temper their desire to put homosexuals in prison.”